The juvenile justice system in the state of Maryland is vastly different from the adult court system. When charged with a crime as a juvenile it is important to hire an attorney experienced in handling juvenile matters. The purpose of the juvenile justice system is not to punish the child but to get the child the appropriate treatment so that the child does not continue the criminal behavior.
The juvenile justice system has jurisdiction over crimes committed by anyone under the age of 18 years old. The system also has jurisdiction for probation purposes up until 21 years of age. Even though the juvenile system has jurisdiction over anyone under the age of 18 years old, there are certain crimes for which a child may be charged as an adult. Example include, murder, rape, armed robbery and handgun offenses. Children as young as young as 14 years old will be charged as adults if accused of committing one of these serious crimes. Jurisdiction may be transferred back to the Juvenile system under certain circumstance but experience and skillful representation is needed to accomplish this.
There are also circumstances under which the state may attempt to have jurisdiction transferred from the juvenile court to the adult system, even for less serious crimes. The state will file what is called a waiver to the adult system and it is their burden to convince the court that the juvenile is not amenable to treatment or services within the juvenile system. If the state is successful, a juvenile can face the prospect of a permanent criminal record and even incarceration in the adult penal system. For these reasons, it is important to take juvenile cases seriously regardless of whether they are originally charged in the adult or the juvenile system.
One of the most significant differences between juvenile and adult court is that juveniles are not entitled to a trial by jury. One judge hears all the evidence in the case and decides if there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime occurred. Once that judge finds that the crime did occur, they have to decide if the child is in need of services from the juvenile system and are therefore delinquent. If there is a determination the child is delinquent the case will move onto the sentencing phase where a juvenile may receive probation, counseling or be placed in a residential juvenile facility.
There are many parties involved in the sentencing phase of a juvenile hearing. The judge hears from the state, a representative from juvenile services, the parents of the child and any other witnesses the child wants to speak on their behalf. Often sentencing is delayed so that evaluations by doctors or psychologists can be completed to help the court make its decision. An experienced and effective attorney can invaluable in assuring that sentencing information is presented to the court in a favorable a light as possible to the juvenile.
It is extremely important that you hire a knowledgeable, experienced and connected juvenile defense attorney for your child. At STSW, our former prosecutors possess insight into the juvenile justice system and know the strategies that will result in the best outcome for your son or daughter. Our attorneys have achieved extraordinary results in juvenile court in cases ranging from serious offenses such as murder, robbery, rape, assault, or simple violations such as liquor violations, disorderly conduct, and loitering.